A light at the end of the tunnel
Not unlike the Second Coming, many regarded Seacom’s illumination in 2009 as a singular moment of enlightenment, heralding a data renaissance that would undoubtedly find us downloading mountains of information in mere seconds for pocket change; a mobile revolution that would drastically transform the telecoms environment in a matter of days.
Sadly, neither of these came to pass.
Local cellular consumers are only just beginning to feel a cost respite, thanks to the infamous cost-cutting hijinks of one Alan Knott-Craig. Although fixedline bandwidth costs dropped some time ago, Telkom rental charges remain stubbornly high when compared to international offerings.
Nonetheless, we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel – a bright, sunny beam welcoming online habits we’ve scarcely seen on South African shores.
I’m talking about the rapid emergence of video as the latest medium of digital communication.
Previously available only to those willing to shell out serious cash for the benefit of buffering, culturally-conscious South African content is beginning to grow legs among the digital proletariat.
The evidence can be found within the social space. Recently, Cape Town jokers Derek Watts & The Sunday Blues posted a uniquely local response to a popular online meme – ‘How Animals Eat their Food’. Entitled ‘How Humans Eat their Food’, the 1.27-minute short earned 2.5 million YouTube views and international recognition in only a month.
Similarly, in April, local entertainment news portal Another-Day circulated a video diary of the city’s We Are One festival – an event where Johannesburg’s colourful culturally-miad people threw acrylic paint at one another while consuming copious amounts of alcohol. The clip plainly depicted the event for what it was, garnering almost 100 000 views in under 48 hours.
This kind of frenetic local activity simply didn’t exist two years ago. Back then, video was an intangible luxury available to the lucky few with access to a 4MB uncapped line.
Today, South Africans are surfing the web and streaming video via their mobile phones. It’s an encouraging sign of things to come. It may sound a little dramatic, but bit by bit, we’re beginning to crawl out of online oppression towards affordable access to information.
In my opinion, the growing popularity of YouTube and local video content will act as a gauge of internet access in South Africa. Keep an eye out, because it’s only just begun.
Tom Manners – Clockwork Media, Managing Director.